Australia Preaching Scotland Sermons The Church in Scotland

Shetland – Letter from Australia 6

9th September 2019

Brothers and Sisters,

It seems strange writing a letter ‘from Australia’ when I am sitting in my room in the Alder Lodge Guest House in Lerwick (a guest house by the way that I would highly recommend!). There are not many places that are as far away from Sydney as Shetland. The contrasts are also great. Sydney is on the Western edge of the Pacific ocean and is a city of 5 million people. Shetland is on the Eastern edge of the Atlantic and is a collection of islands of some 23,000 people.   Sydney has a tiny minority of indigenous people; Shetland, whilst it has people from many different backgrounds (I have met people from Australia, Africa, the US, England and Scotland here) is still largely indigenous.

St Ninians
St Ninians


Fort Charlotte
Fort Charlotte
Fort Charlotte - Lerwick
Fort Charlotte over Lerwick

Why did I come here?

To some people it seems a bit crazy, after just two months, to travel a round trip of 20,484 miles just to preach at a Bible week. Why?   Firstly it was something that I had promised to do four years ago and I like to keep my promises. Secondly because of the lateness of our visa we had to buy return tickets which required us to return within three months when we first came out.   Thirdly, there is the unquantifiable feeling that this was just something that had to be done. If you like –  a sense of call.

Although I have to admit that as we sat in Sydney airport preparing for that nightmare journey I too wondered why! But now I know  the answer.

It’s a joy to visit family – to see how children, grandchildren and parents are doing.  I am thankful for the opportunity that we have had to do this.

It’s a joy to preach Christ in the furthermost parts of the earth.  It’s been good to be back preaching.  Last Sunday it was to the Lord’s people in St Thomas’s Anglican in Sydney – this week it is in the Baptist and Methodist Churches in Lerwick!

It doesn’t matter whether you are preaching to thousands in a major city or a hundred in a small town – it is all the word of Christ to the whole of humanity. In the days of Isaiah Shetland was inhabited by people who built the Brochs – such as the one I visited at Old Skatness. The Lord promised that his word would be taken even to these far places. And it has been.

There are some wonderful Christians in Shetland. I was met by a sister from Shetland, who had lived in Sydney and attended St Thomas’s when she and her family were there. There was another couple from Melbourne who feel called by the Lord to live and work in Shetland. I have met some beautiful saints here.   The Church here has its problems (like everywhere else) but there is a sense of life and some degree of unity. Although 80 churches for 23,000 people does seem a wee bit excessive! Most churches are very small. – I was surprised to see how strong the Methodists and Brethren are – relatively speaking.

Lerwick Baptist Church
Lerwick Baptist

It’s a joy to visit another beautiful place. Shetland is a gorgeous place with wonderful people. I love the scenery. Lerwick is one of the most unique and beautiful towns I have ever visited. Walking up and down the lanes is a joy- as is eating the best fish and chips down at the harbour.  Shetland is known for its music, knitting, ponies, Viking past, oil and fishing.    The largely treeless scenery is glorious. I really hope and pray it will not be spoiled by the mad proposals to build 15 large windfarms of 500 ft giant turbines.

Old Skatness
Old Skatness
My new friend Isaac!
Isaac – my new friend!

Jarlshof 3Jarlshof 2

Jarlshof 1
Sometimes it rains in Shetland

Shetland has used its oil bonanza well. It has good infrastructure and support for family and business life.  It’s also interesting to hear from some local people about the detrimental effect of the EU fishing policy. The waters around Shetland are rich with fish – the sooner it is left to the people of Shetland to benefit from the fish in their own waters, and not have them taken by the giant Spanish, French and Dutch fleets, the better!    

Shetland is becoming an ‘in’ place to visit as a tourist. I hope that it won’t turn into the Venice of the North – ruined by cruise ships. But the biggest threat to Shetland comes from the danger of the ‘progressive/regressive’ ideology espoused by the Scottish government and most of the main political parties. Family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse, indoctrination of children into “Queer Theory’ are happening as much here as on the mainland.

Coming back has confirmed my sense of call to Sydney.  En route I stayed in Dundee one night. It was good to see my family….and sad not to be able to visit St Peters (although there was a Kirk Session on and I was tempted just to pop in and see how they were getting on!). But, and this may just be me, I sensed there is an air of sorrow and heaviness about the place. Perhaps for me the sorrow was compounded by the realization that I can no longer call Dundee, a place I love, home.

The UK is a depressing place at the moment as well – at least amongst its political and chattering classes.   Again I sense a real spirit of fear which seems to be growing. We are in desperate need of the Gospel.   But I know the Lord has called me elsewhere. In Australia I have been given opportunities that are just not available to me here. Others have their own callings, but I have mine. And, at the moment, that is in Sydney.

So as I prepare to preach the Good News in Lerwick Baptist church this morning and the Methodist church this evening I am deeply grateful for the fellowship and unity of the Lords people in the midst of a dark and confused world. Jesus’s kingdom will come and the gates of Hell will not prevail against his Church.

May the Lord grant each of you a blessed and glorious day.

Yours in Christ


PS.  I loved this cake tradition….where people leave cakes etc in a cupboard and you can collect them and pay for them through an honesty box – although sad to note that sin is here as well….there is a CCTV camera installed after there was a theft.

The Cake Cupbora
The Cake Cupboard


Quantum 58 – The one with Shetland, PolicePersons; Brexit; Hong Kong; Argentina; Ebola; Vicars ‘marry’; Gay Gene Theory; Chick-Fil-A; Female Engineers; Brendan O’Neill; Gervais; Stormzy and Ed

Aretha, Anastasia and Amazing Grace – Letter from Australia 5


  1. My understanding is that those Spanish, French and Dutch trawlers won’t be going away, because we sold them the existing British licences and quotas years ago. Other EU countries did not treat theirs as an expendable quick buck in the same way.

    Do we think the current Government are likely to buy the quotas back in and reallocate them locally? Or simply expropriate them with a big patriotic cheer in the old-school Socialist style, and then sell them over again to, let’s say, the Chinese? There won’t be any more fish in the sea just because we slap a British flag on them.

    Nor is it the only UK asset some people are going to be unpleasantly surprised to find still belongs to people – and indeed, foreign Governments – they thought were going away.

    All part of what should have been thought out in the years everyone was roaring for this to happen, but as you rightly observe, magical thinking (which is so much easier with the thing that hasn’t happened yet, as opposed to the status quo we can all see and challenge the assumptions on) is in charge. The only difference from the same over-expectation of e.g. Blair and Obama is that the magical deliverer is not even human this time.

    “What are we like?” as they say round here, slapping foreheads at some egregious bit of daft behaviour. Have a safe journey back to Oz and God bless.

    1. Once we are out of the CFP the quota and licence system no longer applies….Other EU countries have treated their licence and fishing schemes in the same way – its why their boats have to wander further. Can you explain why the waters around the UK (which contain 80% of the EU fish) are subject to the CFP but the Mediterranean is not?

      1. “Once we are out of the CFP the quota and licence system no longer applies….”
        So basically it’s either:
        (a) a rough-and-tumble free for all – dead seas in a frighteningly short time, and other countries who have anything left with no reason not to take full advantage of our need;
        (b) a whole new quota and licence system of our own? And extending how far before it clashes with similar rights coming the other way? Do you remember the Cod War? (which was not with any member of the EU)
        (c) feel free to suggest any more.
        For (b) will those who paid in good faith for the previous ones simply find their rights renationalised and redistributed without compensation? Or asked to pay again for “future fish” they thought they’d bought and paid for already? That’s not the conservative values I was brought up with – more like Corbyn’s dearest dream.
        Or are we going to do it and tell them to run to Brussels if they want their money back? It’s just the sort of headline grabbing belligerence we’re seeing plenty of at the moment – from a country whose navy and customs vessels are insufficient to patrol anything bigger than the Serpentine.
        Cancelling Brexit isn’t necessarily “the only answer”, but actually looking at what happens next instead of all this posturing and trumpeting “of course we’ll wing it” would be a sensible idea. Did we learn nothing from the way Blair and Bush blundered into Iraq without a thought for “and then what?” after their enemy was gone?

      2. There is international law and fishing treaties. The UK would be part of those…what we would not be part of is a system whereby Brussels determines what our fishermen can catch. I would suggest that comparing leaving the EU with going to war in Iraq is a wee bit OTT…

  2. Thank you David in the providence of God I was praying for you in church this morning because Lerwick BC was on our prayer list for this week. along with some other churches in Scotland. In BFBC we pray week by week for other churches and this was one of the churches this week. Given that I was preaching on providence too this morning it seems apt as I read your post before heading out to church for an evening service

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